It was a late Friday evening and I just arrived at Seven Grams Caffe in Chelsea, New York City to meet Brittney Oliver. Brittney and I had been social media friends, exchanging tweets and stories in only 140 characters. But by the time we finally met at the cafe, I already knew Brittney was a sought-after marketing professional that jumped through a few hurdles to get to where she is— I mean who hasn't? Her "lemons to lemonade" mantra isn't something she just markets, but something she lives. 

So as soon as we started our chat, Brittney hopped right in to let me know (and of course, you the reader) that she describes herself as a butterfly— "fluttering in her obstacles, exploring opportunities to grow and soaring towards [her] potential." You see, the final stage of a butterfly is breathtaking and catches the eye. Yet, no one admires the caterpillar stage, the ugly stage that is the most important. 

So, the ugly stages?

Brittney had just graduated from the prestigious HBCU, Howard University and took the leap to move to New York City. But the job market had been on a rapid decline, and Brittney had gone on over 100 interviews with no job in the field she desired. Self-doubt and that feeling of "am I good enough" began to creep in. "I internalized it as I was failing; I wasn't living up to my potential." 

"I internalized it as I was failing; I wasn't living up to my potential."

Brittney Oliver

The turning point

Through her own fire and the words of her Pastor, she knew her circumstances were only temporary. This period in her career wasn't the end, but rather the beginning of her journey. Her realization sustained her through her 8-month period of 100 interviews and sparked her fuel to go harder than ever before. While at her out-of-industry job, she worked from 3 to 11 pm but found a way to attend any networking event she could. "I would get someone to cover my shift during break, take a $30 cab ride to midtown, and a $30 cab ride back. It was that serious. I needed to get my face out there— I needed to leave any event or room making sure at least 5 people knew who I was." It was that determination that landed Brittney freelance writing opportunities with Essence Magazine, thereinafter securing additional opportunities in the career she wanted. 

 

"I would get someone to cover my shift during break, take a $30 cab ride to midtown, and a $30 cab ride back. It was that serious. I needed to get my face out there— I needed to leave any event or room making sure at least 5 people knew who I was." 

 

Life will always hand you lemons, but how you deal with them determines how you rise or wallow in failure. "The more lemons you're thrown, the more experiences you have with dealing with these obstacles. When another one comes your way, it's like 'I got this; I'm equipped. If I can get through that last year, I can get through it this year.'" 

How are you going to take your failures and mistakes, and turn them into triumphs? Share with us in the comments below! 

This interview is a part of our #FailForward series where we highlight media and communication professionals that use their setbacks, for their greatest comebacks. Failure is inevitable, but it is through failure where our stories are built. 

About The Author

Profile photo of Natasha J. Benjamin

Natasha J. Benjamin is a digital architect and educator passionate about global digital innovation and cultural inclusion. When she's not strategizing digital content or writing her next story, you can find her traveling to her next destination. Stay connected with her on Twitter @natashajoleen or at natashabenjamin.com.

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  • Love this! I can totally relate. I’m a few years post-grad and still haven’t had a regular full-time job in my industry. I, too, started to think I wasn’t made for that industry. But when I look back, each detour I’ve had has opened up opportunities for me to utilize my talents in ways I would’ve never imagined.

    That’s because I’ve learned to focus on what I could gain from each and every experience, rather than focusing on just getting through it and letting my time go to waste. I’ve learned that a job doesn’t define me; the way I utilize it does and sets the trajectory for the next experience.

    That reminds me of one of my fave quotes by Oprah: “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”

    • Natasha

      Yes, Vonecia, yes! The doors that don’t open don’t block us from our success— they just say, “hey, turn around. This door and path will give you so much more.”

      Thanks for sharing part of your story!

  • Kendra

    Brittney is a wonderful soul, hard working and humble. We had classes together and were in the same practicum group; she deserves all the good press she can get!! Get ’em, Miss Oliver!